Pat Murphy – On Saturday (Feb. 25th) the “boys” were at it again. It was auction day at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum. It looked like they were selling everything that wasn’t bolted down. Auctioneer Tony Mitchell De Zago was perched on his podium and to his left sat Museum Director Rod Groenewold.
As fast as the volunteers could bring out items from tables that were cordoned off from the eager buyers, the gavel would slap down and you would hear, “Going once, going twice… SOLD! As usual the goods that came across the auctioneer’s block were unusual and eclectic. De Zago has sold almost everything under the sun. It’s rumored that if a volunteer helping him doesn’t move very fast… De Zago will have him sold to the highest bidder. But, man O’ Man can De Zago work a crowd. He is a joy to watch.
These auctions at the AGSEM happen several times a year. People can consign their old treasures but reserves are not accepted. You may ask that the price starts at a given value but there is no guarantee that your price will be the starting or the ending price. Still, hundreds of past possessions are consigned and placed on dozens of folding tables.
The auction takes all day but in the short time I was there I saw a wide variety of objects sold by fast talking De Zago. Paintings, clocks, quilts, rare coins, and metal wagon wheels were purchased by the flick of a hand held number.
The auction is held in the assembly building where a cafeteria offers drinks and good food. Several changes have taken place in the building since last year. A new display of exquisite antique clocks now resides in an area where two small rooms sat off to the side of the main room. One of these rooms bordered the outside wall and was where once the bidders would register with auction clerks to get their bidding numbers and where the sold items were paid for.
On the same side of the building two other small rooms are also gone. One of these two rooms was where sold auction items were stored until the bidders paid for them. The bidders would bring attendants a sales receipt and claim their prizes. Now these two rooms are under construction for a brand new exhibit that promises to be of great interest to many longtime Vista residents.
Some things have changed but the Young Marines of North San Diego were doing their volunteer duties as usual. De Zago called the young men and women up in front of everyone to thank them publically for their help. Then they lined up on one side of the room where they would carry the sold treasures to the storage area that this time was a cordoned off area in front of the cafeteria windows.
The auctions will continue at this unique museum but the museum continues to grow and add to the vast collections that sprawl across the museum’s many acres. Working steam engines, antique automobiles & trucks, fiber art, blacksmiths, antique clocks, miniature railroads, and much more attracts visitors from all across the country.
This coming March 3 & 4 the Civil War returns to Vista at the AGSEM. I have a date with President Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses Grant. It will be the third time I’ve had the pleasure to interview these famous and historical figures. If possible I will bring a six year old girl and drop her into the living history book. The reenactment of the Civil War and a battle between North and South forces is performed in exacting detail over the two days.